Community Catalyst Series - Intentional Human Connection

Last week, the Marco Experiences team hosted two back-to-back “Community Catalyst” events at the dimly lit Mr. Tipple’s Jazz Studio in San Francisco proper.

On Tuesday, March 1st, and then again on Wednesday, March 2nd, we brought together people leaders and community builders to join us for a night focused on vulnerability and connection through intentional gratitude. Now, that’s a mouthful and not exactly your average networking happy hour theme. But we’re also not your average company. 

If you’re not familiar, Marco Experiences is a small, but passionate team devoted to creating authentic experiences for companies who are looking to connect their people. But over these two nights, we were our own customers. Crafting this uniquely personal event provided us with an opportunity to showcase what we’re all about; creating intentional experiences within our community.

To start, we were lucky enough to partner with a few wonderful co-sponsors equally passionate about building community and culture: Allie Kerr of venture firm NFX, Chris Hansel at CBRE, Kaitlyn Barclay at Scout Lab, Leslie Crowe at Bain Capital Ventures, Beth Karlsson at Lightspeed, and Adriana Roche at Uncork.

That brings us to Chris Schembra, our host and workshop facilitator extraordinaire, who was tasked with the daunting role of having to convince our extremely busy and likely exhausted guests (many of who hold titles like CEO, Head of People, or VP of Community) to lean in and go on this vulnerability journey with us.

If anyone is up for the job, it’s Chris. The bestselling author of both Gratitude Through Hard Times, and Gratitude and Pasta, he’s widely known in the space to be a powerful speaker and magnetic teacher. If anyone could get our attention, and help set the night’s intention, it would be our “Gratitude Guru,” Chris.

Marco Community Catalyst 01


After check-in and some light bites, guests were shown to their seats. Chris welcomed everyone with his warm and charming presence, and slowly eased into the session. 

“Close your eyes, and think about what word represents how you feel right now. Once you have that word, open your eyes, and turn to the person on your right. That will be your partner for part 1 of our time together. For five minutes, walk them through why you chose your word, and what it means to you.”

You could hear a throat gulp in the back of the room. 

Their word? Our guests held extremely stressful jobs, (read: founders, executives, leaders!) They had maxed-out inboxes and double-digit Slack notifications. The last thing they wanted to do was open up about their feelings. Eyes were rolled, weight shifted in seats uncomfortably, phones were begrudgingly set down, and slowly we saw shoulders turn towards one another. 

Ten minutes later, the room was transformed. There were hugs, laughs, smiles, tears, and most importantly, real genuine connection. Chris went on to share stories from his life, interview audience members about theirs, and seamlessly create empathy amongst a room of complete strangers. Parts 2 and 3 went by in a blur. As the hour slowly winded down, the entire group had grown closer and their to-do lists suddenly grew shorter. And when his workshop was over, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Marco Community Catalyst 02


Marco Community Catalyst 03


Before the event, we asked registered attendees to rank their community-building priorities in 2023. Hosting more events post-pandemic, measuring the ROI of community events, and improving engagement between community members were among the top responses. However, after the event, we began to wonder how their answers might have changed. At the center of it all, is it just about human connection?

As a company that focuses on championing culture and creating impactful events, a night like this was one for the books.

We are continuously excited and encouraged by our fellow community thought leaders in the space and can’t wait for the next event. Here’s to breaking bread with strangers that turn into friends, and cheersing to more unique experiences in the new year.

Marco Community Catalyst 04


See photos from the evenings here, and here. For those who attended, we hope you found the session as powerfully unique as we did and came away with some realistic ways to put empathy at the forefront of your community. These "Community Catalyst" events are dedicated to exploring what makes for a meaningful and fulfilling community -- the first of many intimate gatherings we'll be hosting in our commitment to being a community-driven partner for our customers and partners.

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